By University of Illinois Athletics

HOFFMAN ESTATES, Ill. – Fighting Illini Wrestling placed third at the 2019 Midlands Championships with 94.5 team points. Third place is the best finish for Illinois at Midlands since finishing second during the 2014-15 season. No. 18 Illinois beat out six teams nationally-ranked by InterMat, including No. 8 Wisconsin, No. 12 Princeton, No. 15 Northwestern and No. 16 Army West Point.

Four Illinois wrestlers placed to help lead the Illini to the third-place team finish. Senior Travis Piotrowski (133) and redshirt senior Joey Gunther (174) both earned third-place finishes. Redshirt junior Dylan Duncan (141), redshirt freshman Danny Braunagel (165) and redshirt freshman Zac Braunagel each finished fourth in their weight classes.

“Overall I’m really pretty pleased with our effort,” said head coach Jim Heffernan. “It’s a big tournament and we let some matches slip out of our hands, but we beat a lot of really good people. The Braunagel’s (Danny & Zac), Joey Gunther, Travis Piotrowski and Dylan Duncan did a fantastic job fighting the way back. I’m really proud of the effort, and more importantly I think we learned some lessons and found some things we need to improve on as well. We’ve got a couple of days now to recover and get back to work.”

Redshirt senior No. 22 (FloWrestling Ranking) Joey Gunther took on No. 21 Ben Harvey in the third-place bout at 174-pounds. Gunther got out in front late in the first period with a takedown, going up 2-0. With the score at 2-1, Gunther tacked on another takedown late in the third, and would go on to win the match, 4-2, over Harvey. Third place is the the best Midlands finish for Gunther in his career. He went 5-1 at the tournament, and improves to 10-2 on the season.

Junior Travis Piotrowski finished third at 133-pounds after winning his matchup with No. 3 Sebastian Rivera on injury default by Rivera midway through the second period. Piotrowski, ranked ninth nationally, went 5-1 at the tournament en route to the best Midlands finish of his career, and is now 13-2 overall for the 2019-20 campaign.

Redshirt freshman Danny Braunagel placed fourth at the 2019 Midlands Championships with a 5-2 record over the course of the two day tournament. Three of Braunagel’s five victories came against wrestlers ranked in the national top-25 by FloWrestling, with wins over No. 15 Shayne Oster (Northwestern), No. 18. Zach Hartman (Bucknell) and No. 20 Kennedy Monday. Braunagel rattled off three victories this afternoon in wrestlebacks to advance to the third place bout. The 5-2 record puts him at 13-4 on the season.

Redshirt junior Dylan Duncan finished fourth at 141-pounds at Midlands, the best finish of his career at the tournament. He tallied the most wins on the team at the tournament, finishing with a 6-2 record over the two days. Duncan is now 11-4 this season.

Redshirt freshman Zac Braunagel would finish 4-2 at the tournament and place fourth at 184-pounds. Braunagel, who entered the tournament ranked No. 21 nationally at 184 by FloWrestling, knocked off No. 9 Nelson Brands (Iowa) and No. 13 Noah Stewart (Army) for two of his wins. Braunagel improved his overall record for the 2019-20 season to 12-4.

Up next, the Illini begin their Big Ten schedule at No. 5 Penn State on Friday, January 10. The dual is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. CT. Illinois will then return home to host Indiana at Huff Hall on Sunday, January 12, at 1 p.m. CT. The promotion for the dual vs. Indiana is The Great Escape, featuring a pre-dual youth wrestling clinic, free foam fingers to the first 100 fans, and a post-dual autograph session.

Final Team Scores

1. No. 1 Iowa, 196.5
2. No. 17 Northern Iowa, 101
3. No. 18 Illinois, 94.5
4. No. 8 Wisconsin, 93
5. No. 12 Princeton, 84.5
6. No. 25 Central Michigan, 80
7. No. 16 Army West Point, 78.5
8. Purdue, 75
9. No. 15 Northwestern, 70.5
10. No. 23 North Carolina, 65

-3rd out of 35

Full Illinois Place-Winner Results

133: #9 Travis Piotrowski (Sr.) | 5-1

Champ Round of 32: #9 Travis Piotrowski tech. fall Dominic Dentino (Wisconsin), 15-0
Champ Round of 16: #9 Travis Piotrowski dec. Brock Bergelin (Central Michigan), 6-1
Quarterfinal: #9 Travis Piotrowski dec. #10 Noah Gonser (Campbell), 5-3
Semifinal: #1 Austin DeSanto (Iowa) dec. #9 Travis Piotrowski, 10-4
Cons. Semifinal: #9 Travis Piotrowski dec. #21 Louie Hayes (Virginia), 6-4
Third Place Match: #9 Travis Piotrowski inj. default #3 Sebastian Rivera, 4:20
Travis Piotrowski places 3rd.

174: #22 Joey Gunther (r-Sr.) | 5-1

Champ Round of 32: #22 Joey Gunther dec. Lennox Wolak (Columbia), 8-4
Champ Round of 16: #22 Joey Gunther TB-2 Brandon Martino (Fresno State), 2-1
Quarterfinal: #22 Joey Gunther dec. Jared Krattiger (Wisconsin), 3-2
Semifinal: #5 Bryce Steiert (Northern Iowa) major dec. #22 Joey Gunther, 9-1
Cons. Semifinal: #22 Joey Gunther dec. #20 Jacob Covaciu (Indiana), 3-1
Third Place Match: #22 Joey Gunther dec. #21 Ben Harvey (Army). 4-2
Joey Gunther places 3rd.

141: Dylan Duncan (r-Jr.) | 6-2

Champ Round of 64: Dylan Duncan Fall Lawrence Saenz (Fresno State), 4:08
Champ Round of 32: Dylan Duncan Fall Lukus Stricker (Harvard), 5:26
Champ Round of 16: Dylan Duncan dec. #23 Matt Kazimir (Columbia), 8-2
Quarterfinal: #7 Max Murin (Iowa) dec. Dylan Duncan, 8-5
Cons. Round of 8 #2: Dylan Duncan dec. Gabriel Tagg (North Carolina), 10-5
Cons. Round of 4: Dylan Duncan dec. #17 Dresden Simon (Central Michigan), 7-4
Cons. Semifinal: Dylan Duncan med. forfeit #8 Tristan Moran (Wisconsin), MFF
Third Place Match: Zach Sherman (North Carolina) dec. Dylan Duncan, 3-2
Dylan Duncan places 4th.

165: Danny Braunagel (r-Fr.) | 5-2

Champ Round of 32: Danny Braunagel Fall Mason Smith (Army), 4:27
Champ Round of 16: Danny Braunagel dec. #15 Shayne Oster (Northwestern), 10-6
Quarterfinal: #6 David McFadden (Virginia Tech) dec. Danny Braunagel, 5-2
Cons. Round of 8 #2: Danny Braunagel dec. Cameron Amine (Michigan), 3-1
Cons. Round of 4: Danny Braunagel SV-1 #20 Kennedy Monday (North Carolina), 3-1
Cons. Semifinal: Danny Braunagel dec. #18 Zach Hartman (Bucknell), 10-4
Third Place Match: #3 Evan Wick (Wisconsin) major dec. Danny Braunagel, 13-3
Danny Braunagel places 4th.

184: #21 Zac Braunagel (r-Fr.) | 4-2

Champ Round of 32: #21 Zac Braunagel tech. fall Jed Smith (Army), 20-2
Champ Round of 16: #21 Zac Braunagel major dec. Anthony Orozco (Menlo), 10-4
Quarterfinal: #21 Zac Braunagel dec. #9 Nelson Brands (Iowa), 3-2
Semifinal: Abe Assad (Iowa) Fall #21 Zac Braunagel, 2:05
Cons. Semifinal: #21 Zac Braunagel dec. #13 Noah Stewart (Army), 3-1
Third Place Match: Cash Wilcke (Iowa) dec. #21 Zac Braunagel, 5-3
Zac Braunagel places 4th.

#- National ranking from FloWrestling